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18-Year-Old Rae Heim Runs Barefoot Across America

Heim poses for a fun photo in between running streaks. (Photo courtesy of Bill Wright)

Written by Lisa Turner, editorial intern Rae Heim is one tough cookie. Just a couple months after graduating from high school, the 18-year-old decided to run across the country – barefoot – to raise money for charity. The organization, Soles4Souls, provides shoes to kids who can’t afford their own. Heim hopes to raise $5,000, which would equal 5,000 pairs of shoes for kids all over the world. Why did Heim choose to go barefoot? “So someone else wouldn’t have to,” she says. We spoke with Rae while she was in Carroll, Iowa, about halfway through her journey.

How did you get into running? I had never been a runner, but I wanted to help my mom at this seven-mile race  in Davenport to sell her running line. They design and manufacture the women’s running line Run Girl Run, which I love.  The day before, we decided we were going to run it for fun. Once I crossed the finished line, it was the best feeling. It was like I accomplished something that was bigger than anything I’ve done before.

Is the running across the country taking a toll on your body? Not really. The biggest challenge was after the first week, when I was running with a backpack because it was just so awkward and heavy. I felt it in my knees and lower back. Now I run with a Bob Ironman stroller.

How do you fuel up? Usually I’ll eat a light breakfast, like Puffins cereal, and then on my run I’ll get an apple or a banana at a gas station. I work with a sports nutritionist and she keeps things simple. When I feel like my sugar might be dropping, I pop some Skittles or Starburst until I can get better carbs in my system. Then, after running anywhere from 20 to 25 miles, I’ll have a big dinner with my host family. That’s been my favorite part about running - just meeting new people.


Heim embraces the barefoot runner movement. (Photo courtesy of Bill Wright)

Do you take breaks during your daily runs? Sometimes I’ll stop and relax to take a picture. At first, I didn’t stop at all, but now I will if I want to.

What has been some of your favorite gear? Run Girl Run clothing is really comfortable. I wear their striped shorts and sports bra. With their spandex shorts, you don’t have to worry if they’re riding up on you. I’m also pretty tall, and they have a nice hemline and they’re not too short.

What has surprised you most about the run so far? America is just awesome! It’s amazing to see the kindness of complete strangers. People ask me what I’m doing and I’ll tell them about Soles4Souls; they’ll give a donation right away. It’s pretty amazing.  

Want to follow Rae on her journey? Visit her website or check out Soles4Souls to learn more about their mission.

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